Maurya Kerr

Maurya Kerr, Artistic Director, tinypistol

We can’t talk about women choreographers without an intersectional lens that includes choreographers of color—all our liberations are inexorably bound together. Bodies are certainly gendered, but bodies of color, particularly black bodies, are tragically racialized within our inherently racist and misogynistic, political, institutional, and artistic structures. I fear that well-intentioned all-women or all-black programs uphold othering and marginalization; we need women and people of color as regular, uneventful fixtures in our artistic and daily lives. 

The first thing I, and many people of color, do when watching performance, whether live or onscreen, is locate the other people of color onstage (and in the audience, pre-Covid), for safety, comfort, and as a barometer of representation and the politics of the space. If there’s zero, marginal, or token representation, well, it’s 2020 and all-white casts are clearly unacceptable. There is one black man in BalletBoyz, making the racial diversity of the company 83% white and 17% black—problematic, not surprising. San Francisco Ballet’s roster of dancers is 68% white, 28% non-white, and 4% black. And of sixteen works slated for SFB’s 2020 season, 88% are choreographed by white men, 6% by non-white men, 6% by white women, 0% by a black person—just change it.

To cultivate greater gender and racial diversity we have to actively dismantle the old boys club and actively do the work to enable a reality in which black lives matter. The initiatives needed are simple: directors, teachers, choreographers, and artists must insist, as unfailing praxis, that their art practices actively oppose and dismantle patriarchy and white supremacy. White people need to admit their biases, be willing to give up their monopoly on power, and start (and don’t stop) identifying, training, hiring, nurturing, funding, and raising up the peoples and communities they have actively, via habitual inaction, helped to marginalize.

In terms of my own work, I am committed to working with casts made up of at least 50% people of color. But it will take more than choreographers and directors of color challenging the status quo and pledging equal representation. We need white allies and accomplices for people of color, male allies and accomplices for women and those who identify as non-binary. Without you we cannot effectively challenge the behemoth of oppression that maintains power and privileges for whiteness and patriarchy.  

My late-April performances at CounterPulse were of course cancelled along with the rest of the world, so tinypistol is hoping to premiere blackstar (http://counterpulse.org/event/blackstar/) sometime in 2021. Here’s a link to kosmos (https://vimeo.com/350640358/cd24e35ad7) , blackstar’s predecessor.

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